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China’s Tianwen-1 spacecraft, currently in orbit around the red planet, is preparing to drop a lander and rover — completing the most perilous stage of its ten-month mission. It is China’s first mission to reach Mars, and if all goes well it will make the nation only the third — after Russia and the United States — to have successfully landed a spacecraft on the planet. The mission “is a big leap for China because they are doing in a single go what NASA took decades to do”, says planetary scientist Roberto Orosei. The China National Space Administration is remaining tight-lipped about exactly when its rover, named Zhurong — after a god of fire — will touch down.
Open-access publisher PLOS is gunning for a bigger share of science beyond the biomedical realm, with the launch of five new journals. They will focus on water, climate, sustainability, global public health and digital health — fields in which open science is less widely adopted. PLOS is also piloting an open-access business model that gives an institution’s researchers unlimited publishing in PLOS Medicine or PLOS Biology for a fixed fee. The idea is that the cost of publishing a paper will be spread more equally across all of the authors’ institutions, although some say it could be complicated to manage.
Features & opinion
Materials scientist Anna Ploszajski joins the Nature Podcast to talk about her new book Handmade, which details how her journey into craft helped shape her materials research. Plus, light-sensitive cells that help headless worms to ‘see’ with their bodies, and a wearable device that monitors itchiness.
Andrew Robinson’s pick of the top five science books to read this week includes elegant chemistry, a humane view of robots, and refugee economics.
The idea of ‘nature’ or ‘wilderness’ is surprisingly slippery, writes science writer Michelle Nijhuis — especially since we started seeing humans as separate from the rest of the web of life. “The word ‘nature’ is more than just inaccurate,” she writes. “The vagueness of the concept allows us to believe that humans exist outside it. And if we can imagine that nature is over there, far away, we can also imagine that the damage we are doing to it is sad but not dangerous.”
Image of the week
For 25 years, wildlife photographer Erlend Haarberg has been capturing the hidden night life of mountain hares (Lepus timidus) in the forests of central Norway. During the mating season in April and May, rival males engage in boxing matches under the cover of darkness to fight for food or females. Haarberg says the first to land a direct hit on the head or body of his opponent is usually the winner.
See more of the month’s sharpest science shots, selected by Nature’s photo team. (Erlend Haarberg/NPL)
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With contributions by John Pickrell